NEW YORK – Elvis Presley (search) left the building almost 30 years ago, but his music and concert performances remain — and two new DVD sets focusing on his historic TV appearances may prove he's more popular than ever.
"Elvis '68 Comeback Special — Deluxe Edition" (search) is a three-disc set ($49.98; BMG) featuring the entire ferocious, leather-jacketed NBC special that spectacularly put Elvis back on top after years of fending off the British invasion, serving in the Army and churning out awful albums (and even worse movies).
It includes seven hours of material, including the original special, and complete uncut footage from the entire four concerts that Elvis performed to form the core of what many consider the most important TV event of his career.
"Elvis — Aloha From Hawaii Deluxe Edition" (search) ($29.98; BMG) is a two-disc set documenting Presley's groundbreaking-if-grandiose concert that was broadcast by satellite all around the world and seen by more than 1.5 billion people.
The DVD set includes the entire concert, the entire rehearsal concert from the night before and unedited footage of Elvis moving through the crowd accepting blessings and thanks from people like a new messiah.
BMG's Ernst Jorgensen (search) served as a consultant on the projects — no surprise, since he's one of the key people responsible for the elaborate boxed sets that have reclaimed Elvis's musical importance and the author of fanatically detailed accounts of Presley's recording sessions and day-by-day doings.
Jorgensen has been waiting years for this treasure trove, but he's used to waiting — he had to wait until 1969 to see the special in the first place.
"In the small country of Denmark, it arrived 12 months after you'd seen it," says Jorgensen. "So I'd had the album for a year before I actually saw the show, and I freaked out completely." Despite all the advance hoopla, the " '68 Comeback Special" more than lived up to the hype.
"It was nothing like I could have ever imagined because we'd never seen him in concert," Jorgensen says. "We only knew him from the movies.
On the NBC special, you can see Elvis is trying everything he can to please us. There's an urgency and almost despair in it. And when you see 'Aloha From Hawaii,' here's somebody sitting on top of the world in total control. It's two very different emotional experiences. Elvis needed us in '68."
These two DVD sets are Holy Grails for Presley fans, but don't think that means Elvis releases are coming to an end.
In the works by the Presley estate is an elaborate multi-part documentary — a la "The Beatles Anthology" — that plans to cover his entire career and to include never-before-seen footage that Jorgensen has been compiling from collectors and fanatics all over the world.
But don't hold your breath: it won't be out any sooner than 2007.